PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) – Illinois high school athletes and coaches are hoping for some good news Thursday.
It’s already shaping up to be a long, cold winter for them.
“It’s going to be a mental battle all winter for a lot of schools, for a lot of girls, a lot of boys at the high school level especially,” said Eureka girls basketball coach Jerry Prina.
The Illinois High School Association board meets Thursday to try and determine what’s next for high school sports in the state. The IHSA has put the winter sports season on hold as Illinois wrestles with a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Governor JB Pritzker is moving the state in Tier 3 COVID protocols Friday which will suspend indoor sports events at the youth level.
“What I’m hoping is, at their meeting they will pick a date, say January 15th, and say we’ll try and get 10 or 12 games in,” said Illini Bluffs boys basketball coach Clay Vass. “We’ll take that right now. It’s not the 30 (games) we’re used to but we’ll take the 10 or 12 and have something to look forward to.”
High school winter sports teams were allowed to start limited practices this week. They are practicing without the guarantee of a season.
“They want to play. They want to have a season and will be very disappointed if they can’t play,” said Morton girls basketball coach Bob Becker. “You can ask any of them. They have invested a whole lot. They see everyone else around the country playing and they want to play. They want a crack at it.”
In a statement Tuesday, IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said, “We remain optimistic that these new mitigations, coupled with the emergence of a vaccine, will aid in creating participation opportunities in the New Year for IHSA student-athletes in winter, spring, and summer sports.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health moved basketball into its high risk sports in late October and Governor Pritzker said he’d like to see all youth sports moved to the spring. The IHSA initially balked, saying its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee deemed basketball safe to play with masks and other mitigations.
The IHSA wanted its 813 members schools to play basketball on schedule in the winter, starting this month. That’s a mute point now with the state moving into stricter COVID restrictions.
Swimming is a low-risk sport and high school teams were preparing for a season scheduled to begin in November. Now that season is on hold.
“I’m hoping it doesn’t get canceled but there’s always a chance it might get canceled,” said Pekin sophomore swimmer Kainan Buley. “Hopefully, it doesn’t.”
Girls swimming, girls tennis, golf and cross country completed their IHSA seasons in the fall. The IHSA moved the traditional fall sports of football, boys soccer and girls volleyball to the spring for this school year.
The IHSA is faced with an overloaded spring and early-summer schedule as it had to adjust sports seasons during the pandemic. Sports like baseball, softball, lacrosse, girls soccer and track and field will be starting their spring sports later in the year to accommodate the new schedule.
“I’m really hoping we can swim,” said Normal Community junior Noah Plassman. “It’s something very important to me. It will be sad to see it go.”